16 September 2008
Interviews | 2008
|He’s the best thing to come out of Sweden since Lee Hazlewood, and his newly released third album, ‘The Lake Acts Like An Ocean’ has pretty much made every Swedish critic between here and Vittula go ‘jävla bra, Thomas!’. Americana UK caught up with the boy wonder of sulky “Scandi-cana” for a chat about PR stunts, becoming famous and Damien Jurado. Who, as it seems, is not as mean as he looks.|
Interview by Soren McGuire
Your website bio says that you "combine the Americana vein with a high dose of Swedish temperament". Erm, Swedish temperament?
That's really a question to my record company, since they wrote it. I prefer to focus on writing the songs, not the ads.
How would you define the sound of a "typical" Swedish Americana-artist? Is it something about the long winters that make you all sound pretty sulky?
I'm sorry to reveal this as well, but the story about Sweden's long winters is really a PR stunt from Export Music Sweden. The story about the polar bears attacking our igloos however is true and our fright of big landliving mammals is probably the main reason for our depression. That and the buggle keeping our guitars tuned.
The first time I saw you live, was in a closed down meat-packing building in downtown Copenhagen on a cold Friday night, supporting Damien Jurado. It was all very depressing, in the way that gigs like that are supposed to be depressing? But you've toured quite a bit with Damien, haven't you? What did you learn from him? And is he really as mean as he looks?
That was a long time ago. I did a three week-tour with Damien and Rosie Thomas when I released my first album 2003. The venue was indeed strange, the tour in whole was great and it was really important for a fresh artist such as me to follow and play with those guys. Damien was able to act out all his mean skills upon me and he is a rare bird with a huge heart.
Tell me about your new album. It sounds to me like you've abandoned some of the stripped-down Swedish high-lonesome.
When I started working with The Lake Acts Like an Ocean I was very inspired by M Ward's Transistor Radio album which I hold as one of my all time favorites. I like how a lot of short and long songs surround a subject rather than to let all the songs carry the same spirit. I had this idea about describing happiness through sudden calm moments in turbulent times. Musically, I wanted to do a more dynamic album than last time. To have the acoustic part of the album more stripped than before and the band songs more complex and arranged. This is the third album me and my producer Carl Edlom have made together and it really was a pleasure this time. I'm very proud of the duet contributions by Jennie Stearns, Ellinor Blixt and Elina Johansson as well as of the cover art made by South Carolina's finest; Hollis Brown Thornton. There's a loon on the cover, and one singing on the album.
What's the greatest lesson life as a troubadour has taught you?
Writing, recording, touring and performing music are really the best things in life. Being recognized is generally the worst.
Why does that bother you?
Of course I do like when people are showing interest in what I do at shows or listening to my records. It really saves the day. Im just not that a big a fan of being recognized outside the context of music, when people are trying to judge me personally by listening to the music.
But doesn’t americana pride itself in its honesty and ability to let you look directly into the soul of the artist?
I slightly disagree with you there, I don't think you can describe any kind of music so rigid. I think any musician no matter genre should have the freedom to deal with the music in a way that allows him or her to feel as confident or passionate as possible about it. I think both the artist and the audience wins on that. I really love performing and I feel honest in my relation to the audience, but I don't do autobiographical songs and I don't see that as an interesting angle in music.